Gordon van Welie, the CEO of ISO New England, will be the keynote speaker at a “Special Invitation Only” event organized by two front groups for oil and natural gas interests.
The Energy and Policy Institute obtained a copy of an email invitation (see below) to the November 17, 2017, event sponsored by the New England Coalition for Affordable Energy and Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy.
“Special Invitation Only Event with Gordon van Welie, ISO New England,” read the email’s subject line.
The New England Coalition for Affordable Energy is backed by the American Petroleum Institute as part of a campaign to push for more pipelines in the region and limit the competition natural gas faces from renewable energy.
Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy is backing Invenergy’s Clear River Energy Center project, a proposal to build a new diesel oil and natural gas power plant in Burrillville, Rhode Island. Invenergy has provided funding for the group’s advertisements, according to ecoRI News.
The Town of Burrillville is opposing the Invenergy project. It has joined with Conservation Law Foundation to accuse Invenergy of withholding information about its funding of Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy from the Energy Facility Siting Board, which will make its final decision on whether or not to approve the project at a later date.
Van Welie’s appearance comes shortly after ISO New England disqualified one of the two generating units that Invenergy has proposed for the Clear River Energy Project from participating in an upcoming electricity market auction, according to the Providence Journal. Opponents of project called the decision a “bombshell” that shows the new diesel oil and natural gas burning power plant is not needed. But van Welie’s decision to headline an invite-only event hosted by special interest groups backed by the American Petroleum Institute and Invenergy still raises questions about ISO New England’s independence and impartiality.
The Energy and Policy Institute tried to RSVP for the event, but was told that space was limited to attendees “attached to one of the sponsoring organizations” by a representative of the Liberty Square Group.
Invenergy has cited information from ISO New England in making its case for the Clear River Energy Center, and so has Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy. The American Petroleum Institute and New England Coalition for Affordable Energy have both invoked van Welie’s name in their push for more pipelines.
ISO New England has come under criticism for a lack of transparency in the past. Of the seven regional electric grid operators in the U.S., ISO New England “is the only to bar the press and the public from its stakeholder meetings,” RTO Insider reported in November, 2015.
“ISO-NE is as essential to its region as every other RTO, and its legitimacy depends on public trust,” RTO Insider wrote in an accompanying editorial then. Jack Betkoski III, Connecticut Public Utilities Regulator and the president of the National Association of Regulated Utility Commissioners, expressed concerns in August of 2017 that meetings of the ISO New England and the affiliated New England Power Pool, which advises it, were closed to the public.
Speaking at private, invitation-only meetings with oil and gas interests will not help van Welie or the ISO New England build trust with the public.